Refreshingly Aloof Glimpse at Onomatsu Beya

So, this video came across my feed via the good ole social medias and I thought you all may enjoy it. It’s one of those “newbie meets sumo world” videos that’s brilliant and cringe at the same time. After all, it basically ends up being an ad for T-shirts. But it had me absolutely green with envy because it would be awesome to do practice “bouts” with Onosho…and red with second-hand embarrassment as they had no idea who Onosho is, or have the foggiest idea what butsukari is or what the hell was going on. I mean, it’s like not only do the foreigners not know what’s going on, it’s like their Japanese translator/guide has no idea, either. Hilarious. “Oh, you’re the coach, does that mean you used to do sumo, too?” Cue deadpan, “Yes…” The catharsis I felt watching the video was amazing since it presented a view from the perspective of the uninitiated and really made me want to ask my own dumb-ass questions, wondering if I’d get actual answers.

Off on a Tangent

Like, does the practice dohyo here feel different than at other heya, or at Kokugikan? We’ve seen during honbasho how the surface can seem unusually slippery or crumbly. Is that grip one of the multitude of variables that you calculate as a rikishi, in the way that a pitcher or basketball player would consider the grip on a ball, or a golfer would consider their grip on a club? Can you tell if the clay is sourced from a different place, or if too much (or too little) water was added? Or is the dohyo constructed and re-constructed and maintained with such care that the feel is uniform and such tactical considerations are irrelevant? These are the things that keep me up at night.

Bring it Back to Earth, Andy.

Ah, yes, sorry. Back to the video. At one point in the video the bloke named Steffan asks if they can stay the night. After checking with okamisan, they say, “sure.” This is a fantastic opportunity which our aloof tour guide uses to work out with the boys. For one I think Steffan made the right choice and I’m glad Onomatsu beya allowed it to happen. I’d actually prefer working out with the guys at the stable to another night at yet another pub as the rest of his crew did. But Dude, if you were really “one of the sumos,” you wouldn’t have had a room to yourself. You were a paying guest with one hell of an experience to share with us. You know that. Even Choijilsuren probably isn’t “one of them,” yet. He will be this fall, though, when he debuts at Makushita 15. After seeing the quality of the University debutants so far this year, that “University #1” boast is a big boast.

The fact that he’s interviewing a recruit while Onosho is there, calmly working out in the background…probably waiting for his turn to be interviewed…is absolutely hilarious. It makes me wonder if they did chat with him and that conversation ended up on the editing room floor (which is funny), or if Onosho wasn’t in the mood and enjoyed sitting back, watching the lower-rankers get attention from the camera (which is endearing), or if he’s still like, “Dude, I’m right here!” (Hahaha!) I mean, he’s even staring at you in the still image for this video while Choijilsuren is hiding in the back! My sides are splitting. Do you not wonder, at all, why everyone else is wearing black/grey mawashi and this one dude has a white one? I mean…I just can’t.

“I Would Have Done This Differently.”

We’re all watching this video and likely feeling the tug of being an “armchair producer.” If I had done this, I would have done this differently. Like when they’re eating chanko, I probably would have taken a bit more time to explain what was in this particular version, and beyond the meat and veggies, from the recipes I’ve see, they seem to be particularly proud of the stock and many of the more subtle flavors. Or, when interviewing each wrestler, like Nihonyanagi, I would have put his shikona on the screen. I would have asked each wrestler (if willing) to show me their name plate on the wall and ask if that’s the highest position they’ve reached so far in their career, and what is their goal for 2023. The name plates are nothing more than background in this video, certainly not a conversation starter.

Anyway, rather than feelings of “how dare they desecrate my beloved,” I came away from this engaged, laughing at parts, and I enjoyed it. It certainly gave me some reason to want to head out to Chiba and see if I could be lucky enough to watch keiko some day. But I would be very interested to hear from my fellow sumo fans, what would you have done? If you woke up in Chiba, told that you’re going to hand out at Onomatsu-beya for the day, what would you have done? Obviously, Andy would have chatted about inane stuff like, “how do you source your clay?” or “why don’t you have tawara, is it just a pain in the ass to replace all the time, or do you want to avoid injury?” Feel free to pose your own thoughts in the comments.

13 thoughts on “Refreshingly Aloof Glimpse at Onomatsu Beya

  1. You perfectly pointed out all the cringe elements in this and yet, yes, other parts were okay. I’m so tired of westerners just waltzing into somewhere and wanting to immediately be part of something that has a long history; it just screams “Look at meeee!”. I think a number of friends may have identified with these dudes and didn’t feel as I did about the cringy parts.

    • Oh, the stuff about, “has anyone ever done this before?” 😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣

      It was hilarious and at the same time, I really want to do it.

  2. I was also jealous of the guys visiting. “Bunch of spoiled rich boys off to have adventures on daddy’s money”, I said to my wife. I couldn’t believe they had not done anything to learn about Sumo before they went.
    But once they were doing the practice session and giving it everything they had, I gave them a bit more credit. Same thoughts as you about Stefan’s overnight stay, (and did he finish all the food?)
    Overall better than I expected from some basically clueless dudes.

  3. Thanks for sharing this I really enjoyed it. The seamless segue from the naked bloggers to the t-shirt sales pitch was funny but cleverly done.

    It’s a good question as to what would we ask them? The things I really want to know (how do you stay motivated one you realise you’ll never be a salaried wrestler? how do you feel about the predominance of oshi-zumo? etc…) would probably be very hard to get direct answers for.

    One thing I would like to find out from a visit like this is to get a better feel for just how strenuous the average wrestler’s training is (once they have mastered the basic exercises I mean). When you see people doing twenty bouts in a row, or bring picked for butsukari, for example, it’s clearly very, very tough. On the other hand when you watch training videos a lot of the wrestlers are just standing around a lot of the time…But perhaps they’re dead on their feet from having started training a couple of hours before the sekitori even got there.

    • Sometimes I feel like these stables would be like when I was living in the dorm at college and debates about oshi vs yotsu would fit in well with the finer points of Bond and MarioKart tactics. Plans for the future have to be a part of the conversation, too. And surely at a big stable there will be the highly motivated guys and the guys who are just there for free chanko. The part that will escape us is the day-to-day grind and melodramas. I mean in the dorms, I’d go to classes or go out for meals, even for the night, or even hang out with friends and be away for a few days. For these guys, class is downstairs, at the same place as the cafeteria and with the same guys, day-in, day-out.

  4. This video provides an excellent platform for my culturally naive, newbie question:

    What on earth is the point of these in between basho tours/tournaments?

    At times, they seem like exercises in ritual humiliation (when one younger wrestler gets pummelled in front of the crowd in chest lending etc), or gaudy, pantomime-like bouts – which the topline wrestlers at least look really nonplussed about.

    Cant these guys have a few weeks off? The Basho calendar is demanding enough.

    Waiting to be enlightened…

    • I think it’s just a way to make revenue and engage fans from across the country. The bouts are probably less strenuous than if they were back at the heya and the fans get a close-up look. Otherwise, I figure the only recruits would come from near Tokyo and Osaka/Nagoya.

  5. I always wonder about the salt: does the amount of salt thrown affect the surface of the dohyo; what about the type of salt; what about the general humidity?

    I feared cringe but much enjoyed the video.

  6. I enjoyed the video, was able to handle the cringe as they were mostly respectful. Their audience is not a seasoned sumo fan so I think being fairly uninformed is forgivable. I was jealous of their experience and couldn’t help thinking the entire time i watched this….”You bastards don’t realize how lucky you truly are!” Onosho should have smashed them.

  7. Hey Andy! Thanks for sharing the vid! I found it entertaining (for what it was worth). A bunch of naiveté moments…but I like it mostly. It is very interesting to at least see some of the hardcore training that is dish-out almost everyday at a heya like this, and it was pretty great of Onomatsu Beya to allow this in the first place. The majority of heya would not, unless the Japan Sumo Association deems it necessary, like marketing/promoting, or some self-centered reason. Overall, I feel the young westerners had gotten a real education in their time visiting the world of sumo, and I do wish that l could’ve been there to have experience that myself since I have never visited Japan, never seen live sumo in person, let alone gone to watch sumo at a heya. Sighhhh….maybe one day.

  8. I agree with the rest of you. I wish they had done their homework. I feel most of us would have, if we were about to approach the most respected people in any field. That being said, well, each of their vids seems to have gotten +1m view, so they have a formula that attracts viewers–more or less like a generic news report or sports report anywhere in the world. Onomatsu beya put itself out for these guys; I hope the beya and sumo in general have been rewarded with a few new and curious future fans.

  9. I’m used to the very serious, hard work keiko videos, what I loved was seeing the more relaxed, friendly communal life of the heya. And what a great oyakata. Still probably the highlight was seeing Onosho looking like a happy cat playing with his food!
    Not sure they were as clueless as they appeared, more a style thing for the video maybe. I think Stefan was trying to get a mawashi grip and ended up showing how very difficult it is!


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.